Objectives: Supported employment is an evidence-based practice that has proved to be consistently more effective than conventional vocational rehabilitation in helping people with severe mental illness find and sustain competitive employment. Most research on the effectiveness of supported employment comes from the United States. This study examined the effectiveness and applicability of a supported employment program based on the individual placement and support model in a Hong Kong setting.
Methods: Ninety-two unemployed individuals with long-term mental illness who desired competitive employment were randomly assigned to either a supported employment program or a conventional vocational rehabilitation program and followed up for 18 months. Both vocational and nonvocational outcomes were measured.
Results: Over the 18-month study period, compared with participants in the conventional vocational rehabilitation program, those in the supported employment group were more likely to work competitively (70% versus 29%; odds ratio=5.63, 95% confidence interval=2.28-13.84), held a greater number of competitive jobs, earned more income, worked more days, and sustained longer job tenures. Repeated-measures analysis of variance found no substantive differences between participants in the two groups and no significant change from baseline over time for psychiatric symptoms and self-perceived quality of life.
Conclusions: Consistent with previous research findings in the United States, the supported employment program was more effective than the conventional vocational rehabilitation program in helping individuals with long-term mental illness find and sustain competitive employment in a Hong Kong setting. The supported employment program based on the individual placement and support model can thus be recommended for wider use in local mental health practice.